Emulating birds was long the staple of human efforts to achieve flight, with some of the earliest pieces of technology designed with giant flapping wings and tails.
As we all know, this wasn’t the method with which humans achieved flight, due to the aerodynamic issues and difficulties in conforming the human body to that of a bird. Still, the desire to experience bird-like flight remains, likely due to the constant reminders above us.
Simulation is set to change this, allowing people for the first time to experience the motion and speed of a bird.
Zurich University has developed a machine called Birdly, a kind of mechanical bull contraption using an Oculus Rift headset. Users simply lie down on a table and strap into motorised wings which translate hand movements into wings. A fan mounted on the front unit blows air over the body in time with the virtual flight, enhancing the experience further.
Within the VR space, a user can see the ground, sky and move with the same degree of freedom as birds.
Unfortunately, the product is only destined to become an art installation within Zurich. Still, the interest in the machine raises questions about viability as a consumer product. Would there ever be demand for such contraptions – designed with a singular purpose?
Machines such as Omni treadmill, which integrate with VR and allow movement within virtual spaces, are in a similar market. They depend on another already expensive technology, and are costly by themselves. With VR set to grow over the next decade, it’s certainly a possibility accessory technologies will become viable.
If such a market were to become established, the number of possible machines to augment the VR experience would be innumerable.